Ten Things You Did Right In 2014

31 12 2014

 

The end of the year is always a time of reflection. How did your year go? Many times we are hard on ourselves for not accomplishing everything on our “list.” You know the one. The list that plays in the back of our minds like a running guilt meter. Before you beat yourself up, swallow the shame, and resolve to somehow figure out how to do better next year, ask yourself the following questions. You may be surprised by how much you did right.

  1. Did you pray? Then you entered the throne room of heaven and spoke to the King.
  2. Did you encourage somebody? Then you helped someone know they were not alone in a difficult moment.
  3. Did you read your Bible? Then you listened to the voice of God Himself.
  4. Did you step outside your comfort zone? Then you walked by faith and not by sight.
  5. Did you worship? Then you joined the countless angels in heaven glorifying the Lord.
  6. Did you say thank you? Then you displayed a heart of gratitude.
  7. Did you say you were sorry? Then you were a conduit of grace.
  8. Did you make a sacrifice of your time, money, or other resources? Then your generosity blessed others.
  9. Did you notice when God answered a prayer? Then you attuned your heart to His presence and movement.
  10. Did you have lunch with a friend, invite someone over for coffee, or move so someone could sit next to you at church? Then you embraced hospitality.

My Jesus Resolution today is to celebrate what went right in 2014. Sure, we could talk about doing more, having deeper commitment, or better consistency, but don’t underestimate the power of God. Giving Him even the smallest pieces of our hearts opens the door for transformation. Let’s celebrate the places where Jesus took shape in our words and actions. Let’s cheer each other on when we notice Christlikeness forming in our hearts. Instead of being critical, let’s catalog the way God is molding us to look more like Jesus, even if they seem tiny or insignificant in the moment. God may be using these ten things you did right to make 2015 a year for His glory.





The Virus

29 12 2014

It is flu season. Schools are sending kids home by the dozens. Workplaces are having to deal with staff shortages. Families are finding their holidays disrupted by coughing, fever, congestion, and misery. The aches and pains of the flu virus quickly overtake the body, sending us running for the covers, the doctor, and the tissues.

When you have the flu, you know it. So does everybody else. You will do anything to get rid of the virus attacking your body. I wish that the effects of sin on our souls were as evident as the impact of the flu virus on our bodies. If we could see the misery sin causes, the way in which it disrupts our spiritual health, and the power that it exerts when it takes up residence in our lives, we would be more proactive about getting rid of it. Sin, however, is subtle in its attacks. It presents itself as harmless, a little indulgence, a tiny compromise, or a guilty pleasure. It is a small thing. What harm can it do? The flu virus is a small thing too, but it packs a big punch. We can see the damage the flu virus does to the body. Imagine what just a small bit of sin does to the soul.

Thankfully, we have access to a cure. Jesus came into our infected world in order to heal the damage sin has ravaged on our souls. His blood has the power to unleash sin’s grip, bringing health, beauty, and energy into our lives. His grace is also the preventative we need to keep sin from restaking its claim on who we are. The transformation we begin in baptism continues to drive out the influence of sin, lessening the influence it has on our hearts.

My Jesus Resolution today is to visit the Great Physician. Sin has more of a hold on me than I would like to admit. He knows. He sees. He doesn’t turn away. He draws me into His arms, covers me with His blood, and eradicates the disease from my soul. Fresh and new, He invites me to breathe deeply, embrace joy, and live a healthy life in Him.





The Gifts You Won’t Return

26 12 2014

The wrapping paper has all been ripped open, bows strewn across the floor. The stockings no longer hang by the fireplace. The cookies have been eaten, and the memories of another Christmas are settling in. Sorting through gifts and packages, there is probably at least one item that you set aside to be returned. Whether it is the wrong size, wrong color, or just wrong for you, you will quietly head to the store to find something more suitable.

As you finish up the holiday season, take a moment to reflect on the gifts God has poured into these last few weeks. God always gives the perfect gift at just the right time. Here are ten gifts He gives us all that don’t need a gift receipt.

  1. Peace that passes understanding.
  2. Sufficient grace for every need.
  3. Love that knows no boundaries.
  4. The Word that reveals His heart.
  5. Hope that helps us face each day.
  6. Light that pushes back the darkness.
  7. Joy that celebrates today’s gifts.
  8. Glory revealed in simple beauties.
  9. Purpose bigger than our imaginations.
  10. His faithful presence in every moment.

My Jesus Resolution today is to cherish all of my gifts. It is easy for me to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of unwinding from the holidays. My mind tends to move on fast forward, and I miss opportunities to savor the blessings that God pours into the now. His rich gifts are meant to be treasured and enjoyed. Today I am going to name the gifts He has given me, stopping to thank Him for filling this month with Himself.





Immanuel

24 12 2014

My daughter lives in a different state than I do, a fact we both bemoan on a regular basis. The good news is that she is coming home…soon. When she gets things wrapped up at work, she is going to head towards Texas in order to be with us. And I can’t wait. Right now we are living in anticipation of her arrival. We know that the entire tempo of our house will change when she is present. We have planned things to do, been grocery shopping, rearranged things in the house, and talked on the phone about the fun we are going to have. The best thing, however, is going to be found in just being together. She will be with us, and that is the best gift of all.

Everything that Isaiah has laid out about the coming of the Messiah is meant to underscore a momentous revelation laid out just a few verses earlier in his words of prophecy.

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” – Isaiah 7:14

Immanuel means “God is with us.” The Messiah, the One who will bring light, ignite joy, be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, reign as King, and reveal the expanse of the Lord’s zeal, is coming to be with us. Choosing to be with us. Setting aside glory to be with us. Sacrificing to be with us. His presence among us changes everything. His willingness to share in our humanity opens doors we never dreamed could be ours. The rhythm of our lives changes tempos as we learn to walk with Him through our days. All of the blessings that He brings to our hearts pale in comparison to the best gift of all – God is with us.

My Jesus Resolution today is to pause in His presence. I don’t want to miss the best Gift this year. I want His presence to fill up my days. I pray for open eyes, an open heart, and a humble spirit. I long for transformation and for the opportunity to look more like Jesus. Merry Christmas, my friends. Enjoy every moment of your holiday season. Hug your family. Be thankful for your gifts. Smile as you remember that His presence is the very best present of all.





Zeal

22 12 2014

Do you have any idea how much you are loved?

Seriously. You are wrapped in an infinite embrace of divine delight. You are loved just for who you are right now. Really. The world tells us that we will be loved if…if we do enough, are pretty enough, know enough, have enough, or fit in well enough. The reality is that if always stays just out of arm’s reach. We can’t do enough to earn the love our souls crave.

As Isaiah unfurls heaven’s plan for our redemption, he tells us of the coming of a child who will change the way we see God, think about heaven, and walk on this earth. But it is the force behind this remarkable revelation that should speak most deeply to our hearts.

“The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.” – Isaiah 9:7b

Zeal is a funny word. We aren’t quite sure what to do with it. We agree with the ideals behind zeal, but are slightly uncomfortable with the extremes to which zeal is willing to go. Yet our salvation is fueled by the Lord’s zeal. It is His eager desire to show you His love that powers His commitment to come to earth on your behalf. His zeal is unstoppable. There is no force on earth that can diminish His love for you or His desire for you to live in His presence. His zeal makes Jesus in a manger, in the temple, on a boat, feeding a crowd, healing a blind man, speaking in parables, and on a cross the most beautiful truth the world has ever known.

My Jesus Resolution today is to embrace God’s zeal for me. The Lord’s zeal extends to all, but it is also deeply personal. God is zealous about me. Me. He is eager to show me His love. I don’t want to miss or underestimate the lengths to which God will go in order to make me His. A quiet manger holding a newborn and a wooden cross covered in blood stand as exclamation points proclaiming His zeal…for me.





The King

19 12 2014

It was still and dark in the pasturelands surrounding Bethlehem. Shepherds were settled in for the night next to their flocks, their senses alert for predators seeking to harm the lambs. They never expected to be the recipients of heaven’s rejoicing. An angel’s bright light pushes back the edges of night, proclaiming news of great joy. A child is born in the city of David. Not just any child. The child. The promised one. The fulfillment of a thousand years of promises. The King.

Read the words of Isaiah as he describes the One who will wear the crown and reign over the world.

“Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end,

on the throne of David and over his kingdom,

 to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness

from this time forth and forevermore.” – Isaiah 9:7a

Jesus is the King. His reign is defined by His character. Justice and righteousness mark the way His rule reveals His power. Peace overflows into His kingdom as He establishes His place as ruler and sovereign. He fulfills the promises made to David, but in a way so much richer and deeper than we could imagine. Jesus isn’t just a man after God’s own heart. He is God’s own heart sent to walk on the earth.

We are His kingdom. He doesn’t rule over a plot of land, but in the hearts and minds of His people. Our souls are His throne. He inhabits our praises. His sovereignty unleashes His purpose in our lives. His power transforms us into His image with ever increasing glory. We walk in this world as testaments to His reign, reminding the world with each step that the King has come.

My Jesus Resolution today is to take my cue from the angels in the field. It is time to share with someone the good news of great joy – the King has come! Jesus invites everyone to open their heart and surrender themselves to His reign. Starting with me. I need to examine my little places of control, putting them under submission to the sovereignty of God. Living this kingdom life proclaims to the world that the King has come into my life, and the result is great joy.





Prince of Peace

17 12 2014

We live in a climate of conflict. Terrorists kill innocents to assert their agenda. Blood feuds rage between countries, tribes, and neighbors. Race, gender, religion, and politics become lines that divide people into conflicting ideologies. Fear is wielded as the weapon of choice. Angry rhetoric fills the air. Every day there is another headline, another wave of sorrow, another reason for peace to sound like a long lost dream.

Peace. I don’t have to turn on the news to hunger for its presence. I just need to look in the mirror. The conflict within me rages hot enough to scorch the edges of my soul. Worries, selfishness, exhaustion, frustration, and desperation collide with pain and circumstances causing my heart to languish, weary and worn. Sin gnaws at my resolve. Good intentions meet my tendency to be overwhelmed, leaving behind a wake of guilt.

“…and his name shall be called…Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:c

Here is good news. Peace isn’t an elusive emotion we stumble after in the darkness. Peace is a person who loves us, is committed to redeeming us, and invites us to join Him in the light. Hungering for peace means I ache for Jesus. His presence helps us stand, rather than crumple, in the middle of our circumstances. His faithfulness fuels our faith as we declare, even if only in a whisper, that God reigns in this world no matter what others are yelling. His promises chase away the shadows of sin, guilt, and shame, allowing peace to take up residence in our lives.

My Jesus Resolution today is to untie my knots by tying myself to Jesus. Peace doesn’t come because I get it all right, have it all together, or figure out all the answers. Peace comes when I fall, broken and needy, at the feet of the right Person. It is His presence that makes the difference. It is His power that can transform my days. It is for this purpose that He entered our conflict, coming as a child, leaving crucified, and declaring with His life a love so vast it brings peace on earth and goodwill toward men.